How far can Trevor Siemian take the New Orleans Saints?

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Trevor Siemian sports the finest mullet seen on a New Orleans Saint since the days of Jeremy Shockey a decade ago. That alone would be enough to get him a round of drinks every night of the week on Bourbon Street as long as he's wearing black and gold. But Siemian came within a last-second field goal of leading a comeback from 18 points down against the Atlanta Falcons, which would have bought him free meals in New Orleans for the rest of his natural life. 

New Orleans lost to Atlanta 27-25 on a Younghoe Koo kick as time ran out, but the Saints were in position to win only because Siemian guided New Orleans to 19 straight fourth-quarter points. He may not be the long-term answer in New Orleans, but his fourth quarter redeemed three pedestrian ones. 

Siemian, pressed into midgame service last week due to the season-ending ACL injury to Jameis Winston, got his first start since Week 2 of the 2019 season over the extraordinarily well-compensated Taysom Hill. Over the first three quarters, Siemian looked like a game manager who'd lost the ability to manage, unable to move the ball without substantial help on the ground from Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. 

Siemian finally piloted the Saints into the end zone with eight minutes left in the game and New Orleans down 18. Atlanta then pulled out its usual sloppy fourth-quarter-collapse routine, on one drive alone gifting New Orleans key unnecessary roughness, pass interference and roughing-the-quarterback penalties that allowed the Saints to pull within five points.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 07: Trevor Siemian #15 of the New Orleans Saints is chased by John Cominsky #50 and Steven Means #55 of the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter at Caesars Superdome on November 07, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Saints QB Trevor Siemian is chased by John Cominsky (50) and Steven Means (55) of the Falcons during the first quarter. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

The Saints stuffed the Falcons on the next drive, and then Siemian crafted his finest drive of the day, a swift 100-second drive that put New Orleans ahead by a point, 25-24. Atlanta rallied back with a 64-yard completion to Cordarelle Patterson that set up the game-winning field goal. That can't be laid at Siemian's feet. 

It's tough to determine how much of Siemian's fourth-quarter magic was a result of his savvy gamesmanship and how much was the Falcons' longstanding inability to comprehend that a football game lasts four quarters, not three. Even so, the scoring drives give the Saints a touch of hope that Siemian could be more than just a concession that the season is over. Siemian finished with 25 completions, 249 yards and two touchdowns on 41 attempts. 

The shadow of Drew Brees will loom over every Saints quarterback as long as Sean Payton is stalking the New Orleans sideline. It's no coincidence that neither of the two prospective Saints starters got Brees' Superdome locker; that remained open until the returning Mark Ingram claimed it with Brees' blessing.

It's worth noting that late-career Brees wasn't the world-beater of his youth. Coming into the game, New Orleans was 13-3 in games not started by Brees since 2019, a testament to Payton's ability to hot-swap quarterbacks — Winston, Hill, Teddy Bridgewater — into the existing system with, in most cases, little drop-off in production or results. That bodes well for Siemian's short-term future, but the question now for New Orleans is whether to stick with Siemian, with Hill on spot-duty backup, or go after a veteran free agent. 

Cam Newton and Philip Rivers popped up as possible new Saints, but both come with significant questions. Newton and Payton would require an adjustment period to find a midpoint between skills and scheme. While Rivers played in more Payton-esque systems, his production was already declining when he stepped away from the game at the end of last season ... and his conditioning as a high school coach in Alabama probably isn't up to NFL speed at the moment. 

So for the short term, at least, Siemian and the Saints will need to find a way to make it work. New Orleans is now 5-3, one game behind Tampa Bay for the NFC South lead but owning the tiebreaker. The Saints have games against Tennessee, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Dallas looming, and a promising season could turn ugly in a hurry. 

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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